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07-07-2010 | Infectious disease | Article

Flu vaccination and risk perception ‘very poor’ among travelers


Free abstract

MedWire News: European travelers to resource-limited destinations have very poor risk perception and vaccination coverage regarding seasonal and pandemic influenza, survey results show.

"Influenza - a mild to severe respiratory infection caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae - is one of the most common vaccine-preventable diseases in travelers," explain Margot Mütsch (University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland) and team.

They add: "Travelers crossing hemispheres may be confronted with different antigenic variants of the influenza virus. By returning home, the new variant may be transmitted to contact persons."

To investigate vaccination coverage, as well as knowledge and attitudes regarding influenza vaccination, among travelers, the researchers distributed questionnaires in the waiting room of the University of Zurich Centre for Travel Health in January and February 2009 and January 2010. The questionnaires were targeted at travelers to resource-limited destinations prior to travel health counseling.

Data from a total of 868 questionnaires completed by 479 women and 389 men were included in the analysis.

The researchers found that just 119 (13.7%) respondents had been vaccinated against seasonal influenza in 2009 and 2010, and just 43 (14.2%) of 302 respondents in 2010 had been vaccinated against pandemic influenza A/H1N1 (swine flu). Most respondents who had been vaccinated against pandemic influenza in 2010 did so at the same time as being vaccinated against seasonal influenza.

In total, 630 (72.6%) respondents had never received an influenza vaccination.

Significant predictors of seasonal influenza vaccination included vaccination in the previous winter season (odds ratio [OR]=12.91) and increasing age (OR=1.03 per year).

Business travelers were significantly less likely to have been vaccinated than other groups (OR=0.39).

The most common reasons cited for vaccination against influenza included: "Because it is required for my job" (37.0%); "Because of my age" (21.0%); and "My family doctor advised me to do it" (22.7%).

The most commonly cited reasons for non-vaccination included: "I am not at risk" (43.5%); "It is not important" (23%); and "I did not get any recommendations" (19.2%).

Mütsch and team conclude: "Risk perception and vaccination coverage regarding seasonal and pandemic influenza was very poor among European travelers to resource-limited destinations. Age and previous influenza vaccination were the best predictors for considering seasonal influenza vaccination in our population."

They advise: "Communication strategies about influenza should be intensified and should include all health professionals, eg, family physicians and travel medicine practitioners, but also business enterprises."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Mark Cowen

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